INTERVIEW – Isabelle Carré plays Yvonne de Gaulle in the biopic devoted to the general. She gives Linternaute.com her vision of the character and the importance of this film today.
Alongside Charles de Gaulle, there was his wife Yvonne. This is what (almost) all of his images recall in the biopic De Gaulle, in cinemas on March 4 2020 Far from caricatur e of “aunt Yvonne” of years 1248, the biopic describes the wife of the general like the one who, at his side in 1248, encouraged him to continue to fight and go to London. She is played by Isabelle Carré, who answered our questions before the release of the feature film. The French actress talks about her discovery of the character, its importance in the course of events, but also about what motivated her to join such an ambitious project. Meeting.
We don’t know Yvonne de Gaulle well in 1940, the time when the film takes place…
No, and she never wanted to make herself known. Throughout her husband’s political career she remained a step behind, even if she influenced his decisions many times. In 1940, she was younger, she had not lost her daughter Anne , so grief had marked her less, and above all she was a very valiant, very strong woman, convinced that her husband had a role to play. She was also very honest with a taste for the ideal.
This discretion that characterized her was a advantage or disadvantage of embodying him on screen?
His taste for discretion, I feel close to it. I have the impression that what drives me is not so much being present all the time and appearing in magazines or elsewhere, it’s more the pleasure of doing this job, the pleasure of words , language and stories. What drives me is even to disappear into the stories that are offered to me. So I understood that aspect of his character. And above all, I had free rein: we never heard the sound of her voice, we have very few images of her, apart from this caricature of Aunt Yvonne. It was up to me to show something else and take over the character.
Before the film, what did she inspire you?
I didn’t really know her, like all of us. I knew that she was very much loved in spite of everything by those around her and by most French people too. Perhaps they respected his modesty and his sense of ethics, his righteousness? One of the first things she did when she arrived at the Elysée was to change the gas meter to put a personal meter so as not to weigh on the bills.
“Let’s not forget that the best of our people left everything, took a boat and risked their lives on the English Channel!” Isabelle Carré, actress.
It’s someone who inspires you?
(Reflects) I really like his honesty and ethics, yes. I find it quite inspiring to not want to take advantage and not want to show off, to have your own convictions and to want to keep that freedom. Afterwards… there is another side of her that is more reactionary… for example when she asked her husband not to receive people who were divorced… (pause) It was a different time.
In addition to playing the wife of Charles de Gaulle, you also embody the French fleeing during the German invasion…
Let’s not forget that the best of ours took a boat with a suitcase for all their luggage, their families, left everything behind and risked their lives on the Channel! (pause) I think a lot about migrants, I had been upset by this young man who had sewn his report card into his jacket. In fact, at the end of the film, when we play the scene in the hold where she takes this boat and she risks being torpedoed, I was thinking of this young boy with his school report.
VS Is a period that speaks to you?
My grandparents told me about the debacle, yes. They all went to war. And then there is this story in my family: my grandmother’s brother was resistant to 17 years. Since they were all railwaymen in my family, he had access to the trains and he blew them up. But no one knew. Unfortunately he was caught three days before Tours was liberated and shot. So yes, this era speaks to me: in my grandmother’s living room, there was a small table reserved for her medals, it was very touching.
One of the messages of the film is that without Yvonne, Charles De Gaulle would certainly not have been able to accomplish what he did…
It’s a very Me Too movie! (laughs) Maybe this movie wouldn’t have was financed or filmed this way ten years ago. Talking about both the political and the intimate, the husband and the wife but also the child, I think it’s a good angle to question what makes you say no. This is the question that burns the lips of all of us. When you’re a college or high school student, you can’t learn this story without asking yourself: but what would I have done? Which side would I have been on? When you read a history book, you say to yourself that everything was written in advance, that it had to happen like this. But the merit of the film is to show that this is not the case! Every hour, decisions had to be made, it’s a fabric, a dizzying spider’s web of doubts, micro-decisions, support or non-support, chance… to find yourself there, to believe in a sheet of paper, a pen, a microphone, to words and to a conviction that France was not Hitler’s.
“It’s a necessary film, for the young generation, for us, and perhaps to ask the right questions to politicians”
This is a film about a strong character, but also on a strong historical moment. Was it a difficult feature film to make?
I didn’t have that feeling. I was afraid for my comrade, Lambert Wilson. I remember the first time he arrived in a De Gaulle costume… There was silence on set. He reassured everyone in five seconds, he found the right cursor between imitation and composition. You had to be realistic but at the same time readjust things, and above all make them sincere. Lambert [Wilson, ndlr] really pulled it off.
You had no pressure to play Yvonne de Gaulle and to take part in this ambitious project?
Above all, I felt a lot of enthusiasm, because the duty to remember is important. Participating in this project, we can only be proud of it! From time to time, I thought of all the young people who will see the film at school or with their grandparents. Once again, making a biopic just about De Gaulle wouldn’t have thrilled me like that. The film raises the question of choosing sides, even when everything is against you or seems against you.
C’ is therefore a film that remains topical?
And even necessary! For the younger generation, for us too, and perhaps to ask politicians the right questions: what is it really to do politics? What does that imply? Isn’t that a sacrifice, shouldn’t it always be a sacrifice? These are also questions that the film asks.